A webinar event hosted by network member Infokolpa & BVMN took place on Monday 15th July 2021, addressing the issue of rights abuses at Slovenian borders on the eve of the Slovenian Presidency of the European Union.
The book was published in collaboration with The Left in the European Parliament and contains 900 testimonies of border violence, and thus fundamental rights violations, experienced by 13,000 people-on-the-move. It is being presented for the first time in Austria, having been launched last December in the Brussels and various other national parliaments such as the German Bundestag.
Addressing the head of Frontex’s Fundamental Rights Office Jonas Grimheden, Director of the Agency Fabrice Leggeri, and all Members of the Consultative Forum on Fundamental Rights, the letter listed cases of pushbacks and fundamental rights violations documented over the past two years at the North Macedonian-Greek border. Oral testimonies given to BVMN by people who have directly experienced this border violence are included in the letter. They not only detail violent processes of cross-border removal, but also the overt presence of officers matching the visual description of Frontex. This evidence comes despite there being “no legal authority for officials deployed by Frontex to act on North Macedonian territory”.
The letter put forward a firm stance on border monitoring, stating that the implementation of these mechanisms, particularly in the case of Croatia, should be fully compliant with fundamental rights, and that they should be “independent, meaningful and effective” to ensure violations at borders are fully investigated. Research by the The Guardian and MEPs has found systemic failings in the case of Croatia’s border monitoring mechanism, with deep questions marks over the lack of implementation, impartiality and mispent funds. The joint letter addressed the Croatian context as a key point in the development of EU-wide monitoring mechanisms, and stressed that any national agreement reached in Croatia that fell short of required standards would “set a bad precedent”.
In a recent policy analysis, BVMN looked in depth at the New Pact on Migration and Asylum in conjunction with Croatia’s existing monitoring apparatus, finding it stood as a symbol of bad practice. Moreover, within the context of succesive reports on the use of torture during pushbacks from Croatian territory, which in a recent publication by BVMN was demonstrated to have occured in 87% of recorded case in 2020, this lack of accountability is deeply concerning. The joint letter therefore urges for a robust and consistent set of standards to be ensured for national mechanisms, and that the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency is enabled to issue guidance for the implementation of border monitoring.
On 28th April, the Greek Ombudsman released an interim report on pushbacks of people-on-the-move from Greece to Turkey at the land border, in the area of the Evros river. This report is an update on the Ombudsman’s own-initiative investigation spread over a period of 3.5 years into allegations of pushbacks which was launched on 9 June 2017. Whilst the investigation continues, this interim report presents key aspects of the practices that have been reported, records how allegations have been responded to, and makes proposals for change.
In the written response published below, BVMN have called attention to some of the inconsistencies and shortcomings of the report, and put forward some key reccomendations for a full and proper investigation into pushback violations in the Evros region. One of the core contentions raised in BVMN’s letter relates to the assertion by the Ombudsperson that “traffickers and unidentified individuals” are responsible for pushbacks, and that Greek authorities tolerate, or at best play a facilitation role. While BVMN welcomes the recognition that pushbacks are occuring, the report grossly misrepresents the role of Greek authorities, who are the primary instigators of illegal removals to Turkey. Josoor, Mobile Info team and other anonymous members of BVMN have recorded over 6000 people pushed back from Greece to Turkey since 2019 – clearly implicating Greek authorities at the centre of these practices.